Review by Camden Ferrell
Bobby Farrelly has made a name for himself as a directing duo with his brother Peter, directing comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. Now, he is embarking on his solo directorial debut with Champions, based on the 2018 Spanish film Campeones. This movie is incredibly conventional and undoubtedly too long, but it’s hard not to be charmed by the film’s cast and feel-good story.
Marcus is a basketball coach, working as an assistant in a low-level league after losing his position at Ohio State years prior due to his behavior. After being arrested for drunk driving, he is court ordered to coach a basketball team of players with intellectual disabilities. What seems like an impossible and taxing chore soon proves to be a worthy experience as he learns to love his players and help them achieve success that he never thought possible. It’s a nice premise that has a formula that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it’s great that the movie showcases an interesting group of individuals in the process.
Written by Mark Rizzo, it’s an honorable first feature screenplay, and it has its problems, but it also has heart. It’s clear that his intentions are noble, and while he addresses some of the more complex questions that arise from its premise, there are still some aspects of the disabilities that could have been handled slightly better. Occasionally, there are some funny moments but like many mainstream comedies, it definitely loses a lot of steam in its final half as the emotional drama starts to kick in.
The cast is quite enjoyable in this. Woody Harrelson leads the movie as Marcus and brings his typical abilities to the screen without doing much more than that. He co-stars with Kaitlin Olson who isn’t given a lot to do in this movie but is still decent. The standouts are the players with disabilities who have great comedic timing and are endearing to root for. Madison Tevlin and Kevin Iannucci are the highlights even though each of them have a unique energy they bring to screen.
The one complaint that I imagine will be universal is its two-hour runtime. It is undeniable that it could have possibly shaved off half an hour, and this problem becomes very evident in act two. It’s not bad enough to sour the rest of the movie, but there are several moments that drag and ruin some great momentum and comedy. Despite this, the movie is incredibly charming and is light-hearted fare that will leave you feeling better than you came.
Champions may not be a classic, and it may share the same narrative and emotional beats as Farrelly’s other movies, but it’s still a fun time at the theaters. General audiences will have no trouble rooting for our protagonists as they work together and find success on the court, and they will enjoy Harrelson’s relationship and emotional journey as well. Nothing is really amazing in this movie, but not much is particularly bad either. At worst, this will be a movie you enjoy but forget shortly after you leave the theater.
Champions is in theaters March 10.